U seals task force talks

A University official said varying schedules make task force meetings hard to keep open.

by Matt Graham

Despite calls for increased transparency during the second round of strategic positioning talks, task force meetings aren’t planned to be open to the public.

Linda Thrane, vice president for University Relations, said she is meeting with University administrators today to discuss the issue of public access to information coming out of the meetings, and specifically whether reporters will be allowed to attend.

Nathan Whittaker of the General College Truth Movement said this fits the pattern established by the rest of the process, and thinks the administration will try to sneak actions past the student body.

Whittaker and the General College Truth Movement led a group of students, faculty members and staff members last spring who said the first phase of strategic positioning was carried out largely behind the University community’s back.

Mark Anfinson, general counsel to the Minnesota Newspaper Association and The Minnesota Daily, as well as an expert on open-meeting law, said the University is not required to make task force meetings open to the public.

He said state law requires only that the University’s governing body – the Board of Regents and its committees – be open to the public.

The administration oversees the task forces.

“What frustrates me is -what’s the big deal? Why don’t they make these public?” Anfinson said. “They’re managing the news is what they’re trying to do.”

But University Vice President and Chief of Staff Kathy Brown said it would be difficult to arrange for 33 task forces to be open to the public because the schedules of the task force members vary.

“It wouldn’t facilitate the work, if they were open,” she said.

Minnesota Student Association President Emily Serafy Cox said scheduling open meetings may be difficult now because “it’s such a big process and things are changing literally every day,” and even the administration seems confused at times, she said.

But she said things should start running more smoothly in the next week or two as people figure things out.

“That is not an excuse that can hold much water for very much longer,” she said.

Karen Buhr, president of the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly and a task force member, said the task forces schedule their meetings independently, not through the administration, which means the schedules aren’t centrally planned.

But she said meeting times are decided two weeks in advance and meeting schedules could easily be advertised.

“It seems to me like they should be open to the public,” Buhr said.

Both Buhr and Serafy Cox said they just recently found out about the meetings not being open to the public, and said they may raise the issue when meeting with administrators later this week.